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Source: U.S. District Court consent decree, NJ Spotlight research
Toll Brothers Inc., one of the largest homebuilders in the nation and New Jersey, has agreed to pay $741,000 in civil penalties to resolve alleged federal Clean Water Act violations at its construction sites.
New Jersey will not share any of that money, though, because the state did not join the federal action.
In announcing the settlement last week, officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice also stated that Toll Brothers will be creating a company-wide stormwater compliance program to increase management oversight at all home construction sites across the nation.
In a complaint filed with the agreement, federal officials allege that they found more than 600 stormwater violations through site inspections and by reviewing documents. Most of these involve Toll Brothers’ failure to comply with permit requirements at construction sites, including mandates to install and maintain adequate stormwater pollution controls. The consent decree, filed in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, covers sites in 23 states. Of 43 New Jersey sites, about a quarter remain active construction sites.
EPA officials estimate the settlement will prevent millions of pounds of sediment from entering U.S. waterways every year.
The Clean Water Act requires permits for the discharge of stormwater runoff with the proper controls in place. Construction projects disturb large areas of land, which significantly increases the potential for erosion, and runoff from sites can pick up other pollutants, including concrete, paint, used oil, solvents, and trash. Polluted stormwater runoff and sediment can flow directly into nearby waterways, affecting drinking water quality and damaging aquatic habitats.
As part of the settlement, Toll Brothers will have to obtain all required permits, develop site-specific pollution prevention plans, conduct additional inspections beyond those required by stormwater regulations and document and promptly correct any problems. The company also must properly train construction managers and contractors and designate trained staff for each site.
“This settlement will help protect the nation’s waters from the harmful pollutants contained in stormwater runoff from construction sites,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.
Only Maryland and Virginia, which joined the action, will receive a portion of the penalties. As noted, New Jersey did not join in, which prompted Jeff Tittel, director of the state chapter of the Sierra Club, to criticize officials here for not citing Toll Brothers for violating state stormwater management regulations, which he said are stricter than federal rules.
“New Jersey has enough water pollution, we do not need developers violating the laws and giving us more,” said Tittel. “We are glad EPA has stepped in and gone after these Clean Water Act violations. However New Jersey DEP not only did not catch these violations and the pollution from them, but has missed out on receiving federal funding because we were not part of the federal action.”
Larry Ragonese, a DEP spokesman, said the department cooperated with the EPA and called Tittel’s assertions “ridiculous.” He said that while New Jersey could have gotten a small amount of the penalty money by joining the action, that might have been offset by legal fees and staff costs.
A Toll Brothers spokeswoman declined to comment.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.
More information about the settlement is.
The New Jersey Toll Brothers' sites that were part of the decree are mapped. Click on a site to get more information about it.